The utterly ordinary Nicola Ward is a divorced schoolteacher living in Maine when one day a mysterious (and long-delayed) trunk arrives in the mail, sent to her when she was a baby from Shanghai. Inside the trunk are family papers, photographs, , and several pieces of apparently priceless Russian art. To authenticate the art (and translate the diary bundled with it), Nicola hires Neil Walker, a burnt-out CIA operative who turned to scholarly research after one too many missions went sour. Neil’s spy-world training comes in handy, though, when Nicola starts receiving death threats clearly connected with the contents of the trunk. But what stirred up the hornets? nest? The Russian collection, which seems to identify Nicola as the heir to the Romanov throne? Or could something in her family papers point the way to a Soviet mole in the U.S. government?
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